In the long run it doesn’t necessarily matter whether or not you earn a huge paycheck if you gear yourself toward financial success early on and maintain a steady course. Minimizing your personal expenses is the best way to ensure financial success. If you keep expenses low when times are good, even in times of crisis you will have developed responsible spending and saving habits that will help carry you through. You may even end up with more wealth than than the high income earner, depending on their lifestyle.

To demonstrate how this could happen, let’s go over the two following hypothetical scenarios that demonstrate how polar opposite budgets fare in financial crisis.

There is an individual who lives in one of the lowest GDP nations, earning a meager 500 dollars per year. Their family produces all of their own food, collects their own water, they built and maintain their own home, and they rely on animals they raised for transportation. If you disregard maintenance costs, or assume they are done with materials that are readily available in the immediate area, the cost of living for this family is zero. Their frugal lifestyle helps insulate them from global downturns, so even if their base income fell by 80%, they would still be able to save some money for the future.

On the other hand, let’s look at an individual who earns a large paycheck and is someone who an average person would call wealthy. They earn 5 million dollars per year, and are based in a wealthy economy. They jet-set around the world, have every meal prepared for them, own multiple vehicles and a vacation property, and own the largest possible home the bank would allow them to buy. Disregarding maintenance costs, this spendthrift manages to save 500 thousand dollars per year, with expenses including taxes, topping 4.5 million. In the event of global market instability, if this individual’s pay were merely cut in half, it would only take 4 years to wipe out 20 years of savings.

This isn’t a one size fits all example by any means, and the scenarios above may seem a bit extreme, but it does help to drive home the impact of lifestyle choices. It also emphasizes the power of financial planning and follow-through, and harkens to the childhood moral, “The Tortoise and The Hare”. Sometimes slow and steady really does win the race.